The city of Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s second largest, its biggest port and is home to its largest industrial center. One of the oldest cities we’ve stopped at so far on our trip around this Small World, the earliest signs of human activity extend back some 5,000 years. Evidence of earlier civilization in this region has been linked to the area surrounding what is now the port of Kaohsiung, a body of water that was formally a lagoon (in that it is near, but not connected to a larger body of water and separated by reefs), but over the centuries it was built into the harbor we know it as today. In its “short” history as a harbor, which extends back to the early 17th Century at least, the port has been controlled by the Dutch East India Company (considered one of the first multinational corporations in the world), as well as Japan, who took control when the Qing Dynasty was defeated in the First Sino-Japanese War. This war was between China and Japan and was fought for control of Taiwan. The First Sino-Japanese War is believed to have led to the Revolution of 1911 when the Qing Dynasty was overthrown.
One of the most quoted figures in human history, and fountainhead of a belief system in his name, is Confucius, a Chinese teacher, philosopher and politician who was alive around 500 B.C. Confucius is best known for his teachings on ethics where he stressed moral excellence and skilled judgment. Some of his more well-known quotes are: “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” And, “Our greatest glory is not in ever falling, but in rising every time we fall.” While Confucianism is believed by many to not be a religion, but a philosophy of living and learning, Taiwan is one of the Asian countries where this manner of thought has a high prevalence.
In 1684, the Confucius Temple of Kaohsiung was erected as a memorial to Confucius. It sits next to Lotus Pond, a man-made lake and popular tourist destination. The pond was built in 1951, but gained some national acclaim in 2009 when it was used as a site in the World Games for various water sports. The Temple is nestled by the water and an elementary school, though during Japanese rule it fell into disrepair and only a portion of it remains originally intact today. While parts of it were relocated and rebuilt in 1977, it still retains much of its historical relevance and beauty.
Another popular tourist destination in Kaohsiung, making an especially apropos connection to its sister city that brought us here, San Antonio, Texas, is the Love River. Originating in the central Renwu District which sees it heritage extend all the way back to the Ming Dynasty, the river flows out to the Harbor for nearly eight miles. Other notable sites dot the Love River’s path, making the popular passenger boat rides that frequent this water thoroughfare an apt trip for sightseeing. One of those semi-modern marvels of architecture is the Holy Rose Cathedral, built in 1860; it is the oldest catholic church in Taiwan. On Christmas Eve, it is known for its masses that last all night until the break of Christmas.
Kaohsiung is a walkable and bike-friendly city with a mass transit system that allows its citizens and visitors ease of access to the town’s abundant amenities and recreational outlets. Steeped in history, culture and modernity, the city boasts both fine arts and beautiful nature, and is a very worthy stop for this edition of our Small World.